Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where There's Wildfire Smoke, There's Toxicity

Date:
December 1, 2008
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Detailed particulate analysis of the smoke produced by previous California wild fires indicates that the composition posed more serious potential threats to health than is generally realized, according to a new paper analyzing particulate matter from wildfires in Southern California.

Smoke from wildfires on distant inland hills pours over the ocean at Venice Beach, Calif., Nov. 16.
Credit: Viterbi School of Engineering

The health threat to city dwellers posed by Southern California wildfires like those of November 2008 may have been underestimated by officials.

Detailed particulate analysis of the smoke produced by previous California wild fires indicates that the composition posed more serious potential threats to health than is generally realized, according to a new paper analyzing particulate matter (PM) from wildfires in Southern California.

The new article confirms earlier studies by air polllution specialist Constantinos Sioutas of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who is also co-director of the Southern California Particle Center.

For the study Sioutas and colleagues from USC, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and RIVM (the National Institute of Health and the Environment of the Netherlands) analyzed the particular matter gathered during the fall 2007 blazes.

"Fire emissions produce a significantly larger aerosol in size than typically seen in urban environments during periods affected by traffic sources, which emit mostly ultrafine particles," Sioutas said.

"Staying indoors may not provide protection from smoke particles in the absence of air conditioning or the ability to recirculate filtered indoor air. This is because the fire particles can penetrate indoor structures more readily than particles from vehicular emissions."

According to Sioutas, the fires produce a dangerous mix. "The chemical composition of particles during the fire episodes is different than that during 'normal' days impacted by traffic sources.

"Tracers of biomass burning (e.g. potassium and levoglucosan) were elevated by two-fold during the fire periodm" he said. "Water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) was also higher during the fire event. This makes these particles from wood smoke more bioavailable, thus more readily absorbable by our system than particulate matter from traffic sources."

The ability of the particulates to penetrate structures, even if windows are closed, and their potential ability to be absorbed by human tissues are a matter of concern. "More aggressive measures to avoid smoke seem to deserve study, including distribution of masks and evacuation to air conditioned environments, and closure of non-smoke secured schools," said Sioutas, who holds the school's Fred Champion Professorship of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The results of the latest study confirm an earlier analysis of particles from October 2003 California wildfires, conducted by Sioutas and colleagues from USC and UCLA.

Sioutas' co-authors on the current paper are Vishal Verma and Andrea Polidori of the USC Viterbi School Astani department of civil and environmental engineering, professors James Schauer and Martin Schafer of the University of Wisconsin departments of civil engineering and environmental chemistry, and Dr. Flemming Cassee of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Centre for Environmental Health Research.

The research was supported by the Environmental Protection Agency.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Physicochemical and Toxicological Profile of Particulate Matter (PM) in Los Angeles during the October 2007 Southern California Wildfires. Environmental Science and Technology, (in press)

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Where There's Wildfire Smoke, There's Toxicity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120072904.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2008, December 1). Where There's Wildfire Smoke, There's Toxicity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120072904.htm
University of Southern California. "Where There's Wildfire Smoke, There's Toxicity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120072904.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins